Should I change my subject selection because of COVID-19?
If you are a high school student, you will now have selected or be in the final stages of selecting
subjects for your last 1-2 years of school study. Students have had to make these selections in
disrupted and uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the pandemic is impacting and highlighting various jobs, professions and industries in different ways which could affect your thinking. For example, healthcare is being highlighted favourably for its positive social contribution to our wellbeing. The roles of online businesses and technology are also being highlighted positively as we increasingly shop and work from home.
By contrast, tourism, travel, hospitality and leisure businesses and jobs are suffering while still
possessing positive medium to long term prospects. Also, while unemployment grows, the
agribusiness and information technology sectors continue to express a shortage of talent for
most types of roles.
Should you be influenced by what you are observing and experiencing during these COVID
times, or should you approach subject selection in the same way that you would in a non-
Here at CareerHQ, we suggest that you approach your subject selection in the same way as
you normally would but also with an eye to the world around you.
Our overriding reason for this advice is that whatever you end up choosing to study at high
school won’t determine your future. And it certainly won’t determine or limit what you choose to
study at TAFE or university, or to work at beyond school.
Before COVID-19 arrived in the first quarter of 2020, we would have suggested that you guide
your subject choices by:
- Taking into account your future career plans and goals.
- Choosing subjects which you enjoy and are good at.
- Including subjects that you are required to take.
- Selecting subjects that offer a reasonable challenge for you.
- Using these first 4 steps to build a list of your preferred subjects, and then narrowing it down.
- Talking with your parents and your careers adviser.
If you followed this or a similar process and are comfortable with the subjects you have
selected, stick with them as they are likely based on good thinking.
If you haven’t selected your subjects based on these or similar considerations, it’s not too late to
rethink what you are doing and why, and to make changes that suit you better.
While we think that you should go about selecting or confirming your subjects now as you would
have pre-COVID, we also suggest that you should have an eye open to what COVID means for
the world of work now and in the future.
Some of the key things stemming from COVID-19 are:
- Less job opportunities for school leavers, and higher unemployment generally in 2020
and probably for the next three (3) years.
- Greater differences in the rate of growth or decline in various occupations and industries
for at least the next three (3) years, and possibly forever.
- Probably a stronger interest by people of all ages in jobs and industries which offer high
job and income security (eg health, education, social services, government etc).
- A boost to the growth of online and technology-based businesses across virtually all
sectors from retailing to telehealth.
- More government incentives for sectors which are expected to continue to experience
shortages of labour, including trade apprenticeships.
- We suspect a rethink by many people of what’s most important to them in life and work,
and what balance they are seeking.
We see most of these outcomes as being things that were coming anyway, and that have been
more emphasised by COVID-19 rather than being new factors.
These are trends that we are all going to have to live with and adapt to in coming years
irrespective of COVID. They therefore represent an opportunity for those students who take
them into account in narrowing down and making their study and career choices. On the other
hand, they represent a bigger challenge for those who are travelling with their eyes closed to the
changes occurring around us.
So in summary, what does this mean for you in making or reviewing your subject choice, in
these COVID times?
- Go about it as you would ideally have approached it in pre-COVID times, using the six
(6) suggested steps outlined earlier.
- Select subjects which combine what you will enjoy and are good at with the classes you
need to do now if you know what career options you wish to pursue after school.
- If you don’t have a firm idea now on what career you wish to follow after school, select a
mix of subjects which will interest you, be enjoyable to do and keep your options open.
- Narrow down and make your final selections by also having regard to what’s happening in the world of work which you will enter beyond school.
- Be open minded and if Year 12 or university is not what you are suited to or interested in, select vocational subjects and educational experiences (including work experience, traineeships etc) which will give you a pathway to work beyond school. This may include apprenticeships and leaving school before Year 12.
- Either include in your subject choices or in your school week, “extra things” that aren’t relevant to your Year 12 marks or career choices but are things that interest you and teach you a valuable life skill. Things like community work, drama, sport, web design, coding, work experience etc, will be good to put on your resume in the future and help you to stand out when applying for jobs. Don’t let study get in the way of your full education.
If you feel that you would benefit from using a tool to assist your thinking on subject and career
choices available to you, the CareerHQ Compass is available at www.careerhq.com.au